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IAN ORTEGA: Nation MG takes step to ‘Lean Production’ at Daily Monitor

Early this week, the Nation Media Group in Uganda started on its process of down-sizing that will also among other things see a merge of roles for employees at NTV Uganda and Daily Monitor. It will also see the two organizations move into the same location. Some roles will completely be deleted.

The sharpness of the panga was fell first at Daily Monitor and KFM where a number of editors were showed the exit. Nation Media says it will be focusing more on Digital as it slowly pulls out of the Print.

But there is something deeper beyond the struggles of print media versus the rise of digital trends. The real revolution is the end of Jobs as we know them, a complete disruption of Ford’s assembly line and mass production systems and an ushering of “Lean Production” as the new era.

The era of the specialized worker or employee is coming to an end. Students in University today will graduate to a world of a totally disrupted work environment. 50% of the jobs of the next 5 years are yet to be created. Who would have thought many years back that Social Media Manager would be a job?

And as such, specialists are coming to the end of their life. Mass Production is coming to its end and has failed. And the world is now ushering in lean production with multi-skilled people, who can do a number of things, too well, faster and more excellently.

Two years ago, I asked Charles Onyango-Obbo how they managed to run the Mail and Guardian online with a team of no more than 10 people. He said it is simple. The writer is the photographer, he edits the story, does the infographics and also uploads the story to the website. I was amazed. Compare that to the print media supply chain. You have a reporter who sends the story to the section editor who lays the page then sends it to the sub-editor. Off the chain continues all the way to the Managing Editor and the Copy editor. Then you publish the newspaper.

Yet even with all these, on the very first page of a Ugandan Newspaper, you will immediately see an error whether grammatical or factual. It is a very inefficient and costly process. It is built on Ford’s model of the assembly line and mass production.

What Lean Production does is to first, make the organization a learning organization. Then it makes it a problem solving one. It gets to the root cause of a problem through asking 5 WHYs. It ensures flexibility. It irons out all kinds of waste and delivers more for less time, effort and cost.

As organizations struggle to remain competitive, they must make their processes efficient. Right now for a company to produce cheap products, it must remove all inherent costs in its supply chain.

It is because of Lean Production that TOYOTA became the world’s largest auto-maker. Toyota is described as “the most efficient and highest quality producer of motor-vehicles in the world.” Toyota created an entirely new model called “Toyota Production system.” It disrupted the auto-industry.

Today Toyota can produce twice as many vehicles for the same budget as that of General Motors. And it will do that with half the time and effort. Toyota is the future of businesses as we know them.

As such it is no surprise when you see 7 out of 10 cars on Ugandan roads being Toyota cars. It is no surprise why it can’t take you more than a minute before you see a Toyota Premio on the roads.

The world of business is not just changing, it is being recreated. And Lean ways of work are the fuels for that re-creation.

How do you make a process faster? How do you produce a better quality product for less price? How do you keep employees motivated and engaged without having to triple their salaries? How do you hire a writer at Daily Monitor who can still be the news reporter at NTV Uganda?

Nation Media has taken the first step. You can expect many other organizations to follow in a time not so far from now. The times, they are changing. The employee who can only do one thing will be replaced by a robot or by another who can do 5 more things.

One comment

  1. In my view, If what I am reading above is true, then they are doing it the wrong way. Integrating KFM, NTV and Daily Monitor was long overdue, but it MUST not always and only be about cutting numbers. You do not fire an editor. There is a shortage of them in the market. You start by retraining the editors, some will pick, others will not and system will sieve, and find roles for everyone – there are actually so many specialized roles- even if part time.

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